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Gayle under the microscope
by Orin Davidson
Mar 22, 2008
Gayle under the microscope

By Orin Davidson - Special Columnist

Chris Gayle has been all smiles in all his public appearances since arriving in Guyana for his first home series as West Indies captain.

But in the back of his mind he will have some major concerns that would consume his thoughts more than normal even for someone as laid back as the Jamaican.

After 70 Test matches, Gayle’s batting records still are not where he should be as a big name player from West Indies that has produced some of the world’s best ever, more so when they ruled the world for 15 years in the 1970’s and 80s.

He needs to buffer his statistics given that he has been in the international game for eight years. As it is he nowhere near the production levels of Brian Lara, Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Everton Weeks or George Headley.

Even in the present scheme of things Gayle, with 4658 Test and 6244 ODI runs is behind Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan in productivity in the current team.

However, he likes batting in the West Indies and this two-match series against Sri Lanka starting this weekend in Guyana should be the platform he needs to start turning over his stats faster.

Lloyd became a better batsman during his tenure as captain and given the similarities he has with Gayle – power hitting left hander and leadership qualities, fans would expect him to follow suit by now.

So far Gayle has been successful at the helm since winning the captaincy by default last year in England. There he led West Indies to a surprise limited overs series win over England and went over to Zimbabwe where it was a much easier triumph.

Over in South Africa, West Indies walked off with the first Twenty20 encounter and in his first Test as skipper Gayle led West Indies to an upset win over South Africa at Port Elizabeth.

The rest of his tour there is now history.

His injuries prevented the Jamaican from contributing fully in the second Test which South Africa rebounded to win and in his total absence the home team wrapped up the rubber with a comprehensive win in the deciding game at Durban. Without his inspiring leadership and cracking batting at the top of the order, the preceding limited overs contest turned out to be walkover for South Africa.

In between Gayle confirmed his strategic prowess by carrying Jamaica to thrilling one run victory over defending champions Guyana in the semi-finals of the multi-million dollar Stanford Twenty20 Cup. They ended as runners up but one of the highlights of the series would’ve been his brilliant tactical move in introducing Jerome Taylor at a crucial period who won the game for Jamaica with a crucial wicket, when Guyana seemed headed for victory in the closing stages.

You don’t have to be an Ian Chappell type analyst to conclude that Gayle would be under pressure to pull similar type moves from the bag to stop Sri Lanka.

It is now better know around the West Indies cricket fraternity that Sri Lanka has never won a Test match there.

Gayle’s responsibility will be to maintain West Indies’ unbeaten run against Sri Lanka and by extension win a Test series against a higher ranked team for the first time in years.

And given his encouraging start in South Africa, he will be tasked with that responsibility to continue in the same vein in his first full series as captain.

Playing at home will be also bring the added pressure on the Jamaican to justify his elevation at the expense of Ramnaresh Sarwan’s demotion as captain.

Insularity, embedded in the psyche of West Indian fans is not about to be erased any time soon and Guyanese fans of Sarwan are still feeling hard done by the fact he was never given a chance to prove his worth as leader.

Gayle has moved past the Guyanese for a permanent place in the pecking order based on his current appointment in light of Sarwan’s availability.

And the lefty would be allowed no more than one lapse for calls for Sarwan’s re-instatement to start ringing in his ears. He has a near strongest possible West Indies team lineup for the series although fast bowler Pedro Collins’s decision to place his priority in English county cricket ahead of West Indies team as a Kolpak player, will rob them of an added edge.

Also one cannot fathom the selector’s decision to deem Sulieman Benn a better choice than Dave Mohamed in the spin department, in the squad.

Off spinner Amrit Jaggernauth’s selection was expected and he deserves a first eleven pick, not only to add variety to the bowling attack but more so as he is one of the West Indies’ best bowlers presently.

Since his ascension to the helm Gayle has been talking a lot about the shortcomings of administrators and umpires which shows he is not prepared to be anyone’s “Uncle Tom’.

But he would be expected to air his feelings in like manner on an issue which should must be the other major weight resting heavily on his mind. Since being bought for an earth shaking US$800,000, by West Indian standards by Kolkata for the India Premier League (IPL), it has led to a measure of confusion in the West Indies camp.

First the West Indies Cricket Board’s CEO Donald Peters made an astoundingly spineless declaration that the Board was making itself powerless to have Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul – the others involved, play the entire Test series against Australia which clashes with the IPL.

It required the International Cricket Council (ICC) to instill in Peters and company a sense of authority by letting them know that their players’ is allegiance is with the WI team first and foremost ahead of any other IPL commitment.

Since that ICC meeting in Dubai, Peters and others have backtracked and announced what he should’ve done in the first place - that the players would be selected for the entire Australia series.

However, Gayle surprisingly countered the latest WICB announcements, by stating he has not yet made a decision on his availability for the three-match rubber.

You would’ve expected the new West Indies captain to have kept quiet even if he was disappointed at not being able to draw down on the entire US $800,000 Kolkata salary by having to miss the last two weeks of the IPL and accept his responsibility to West Indies cricket.

But by not accepting that the matter was closed following the ICC’s and WICB’s pronouncements, Gayle is opening himself to criticism for what he and his team members have been accused of for a long time now – that its all about the money and little national pride where they are concerned.

 
More Views by Orin Davidson
  Gayle under the microscope
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